Quantifying the loss

NHL lockout means more to fans

On October 16, 2012

Any sports fan knows the feeling: the anxiety of not knowing, the pain of absence. Maybe your class ran late or you had an exam. Maybe you were stuck in traffic and couldn't get WGR 550 to come in.

Your team was playing a game and you had no idea what was going on. As soon as you could, you rushed to a computer and pulled up the stats. Did we win? Lose? What happened?

Multiply that anxiety by a month and you have a hockey fan's worst nightmare: the NHL lockout.

Driven by this anxiety, I recently sat down with a few web browsers and an excel spreadsheet to see what I was missing in this absent hockey season. I looked at last year's stats and extrapolated the data, pulling different matchups to see where my passion was going without me.

Hockey fans, here's what we've missed, based on last year's numbers:

With the first wave of cancelations, the NHL won't be starting up again until Oct. 25 at the earliest. That's a minimum loss of 156 games.

Those games would result in 78 wins and would have an average of 2.66 goals per game. In this season, we've already missed 414 goals.

Nineteen of those goals would have decided a team's fate in overtime.

Players would have dropped the gloves in 69 different fights, pummeling each other and dragging one another to the ice. A portion of those fights would lead to the 89 power play goals scored.

But those able to hit cleanly would dominate the ice, wearing their opponents down and causing them to make costly mistakes. Sabres fans won't hear Rick Jeanerette call out the Carubba Collision of the game, but you've missed 802 hits this season.

Goalies stood on their heads in nine different shutouts, blocking over 267 shots to give their teams valiant victories.

And hats rained down from the stands on three different occasions, blanketing the ice with toques, tams, beanies and baseball caps in the rare three-goal celebration. In those games, an average of 52,365 fans would go home with chilly heads but warm smiles.

That's what I want you to take away from these numbers. To any everyday reader, that's all they are: numbers without purpose. They're disembodied stats.

To me, and many other hockey fans, they're missed memories. They're times I didn't leap to the ground in front of my TV, shouting in excitement at a crushing hit from Milan Lucic or a spectacular save from Jonathan Quick. They're empty space, pain I feel every time I log on NHL.com and see a deal on the late CBA has not yet been made.

This was supposed to be the year Sidney Crosby came back and made the Penguins so good you'd rather hate them than admire the skill. This was the year Brayden and Luke Schenn, brothers from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, were going to share the ice playing for the Philadelphia Flyers.

These are lost storylines that fans miss so deeply. These lost stories are causing fans to turn their backs on the organizations they love. For every time owners or players have apologized to the fans for creating this beast, they've never seemed to care that when the season doesn't continue, it's the fans that lose out.

The numbers above are limited because they're only the moments that can be counted. Hockey cannot be quantified because it is greater than the sum of its parts. It's measured in the specific, but hockey would be much better measured in the gasps of effort, the burn of execution, the decibels of a roaring crowd or the times the wave circles a bowl of crazy fans.

It's how many times you can cry, "Let's go, Buffalo!" or "go Hawks, go!" It's cups of beer and overpriced nachos, popcorn thrown up in elation - blanketing a section in a buttery snowfall of celebration.

It's Pavel Datsyuk's dirty dangle, Matt Martin's relentless hits and Brian Campbell's treacherous spin move. Tim Thomas' flailing glove save, Marty Brodeur stacking the pads and Ryan Miller's picturesque butterfly.

These are the stories untold by the stats. These are the moments you miss when you miss a game and are forced to catch whatever highlights are online or on SportsCenter. It's what makes hockey great. You wouldn't want it to be anything less.

That's what you lose when people care more about money than the fans.


Email: meganlea@buffalo.edu

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